Local media this week quoted owner of struggling side Guizhou Hengfeng as saying that he offered cash if his team could beat Shanghai SIPG on Saturday
'Fake news': Chinese football club denies offering $1.5 million win bonus to players
A struggling Chinese football club has dismissed as "fake news" a report that it had offered team members a combined US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) bonus to win a game, and said many of the club's staff members were punished over the issue.
Local media this week quoted Guizhou Hengfeng's owner Wen Wei as saying that he was offering cash if his team could beat Chinese Super League (CSL) leaders Shanghai SIPG on Saturday, for what would be only the second win this season for the basement side.
Now the club is backing away from the report in the Guizhou Metropolitan Daily, which was picked up by national media, and said it had temporarily suspended the monthly bonuses of an unknown number of staff for failing to "promptly dispel the rumours".
Guizhou's entire media department was among those hit in the pocket for their "dereliction of duty".
"It caused the information to continue to ferment," a club statement said. "The fake news severely damaged the club's reputation."
While terming the report "fake news", the club did not explicitly deny that the bonus was offered.
The newspaper, which is sticking by the story, had quoted property magnate Wen saying that he was trying to "unite the team" with the cash incentive.
The issue of compensation and transfer fees has become a sensitive one in Chinese football after a string of record-breaking transfers in recent years that brought big-name foreign players over to the league.
China's government has been pushing an austerity drive in business, and football authorities have put strict limits on the size of transfer fees and encouraged clubs to instead put money into developing home-grown talent at the youth football level.